As of 2018, more than one-third of American workers (35%) were millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. Chances are your warehouse already employs a few of these digital natives.
As the ecommerce fulfillment industry experiences rapid change, millennials are both a blessing and a curse. They offer valuable skills and insights, especially in the warehouse. Having grown up in a connected world, they can quickly grasp and advance new technologies to promote understanding and efficiency.
However as with other industries, millennial values and warehouse demands can find themselves at odds. According to Deloitte’s Millennial Mindset report, they dislike ambiguity more than any other generation – not the best trait in a field where demand can soar overnight. They also value flexible schedules, which can be challenging in an always-on warehouse environment.
So how can you counteract these concerns and build a millennial-friendly workplace? First, it’s important to dispel the stereotypes. You’ll never be able to maintain a positive relationship with your new staffers unless you understand their approach to work.
Consider these 3 suggestions as you bring the next generation into your warehouse:
Focus on Their Specific Needs
In a Millennials + Work study by Department26, researchers found that millennials are motivated by a desire for wealth, though not in the traditional sense of the word. Wealth for millennials is defined as experiences.
Department26 also discovered that our notions of millennials as “job-hoppers” isn’t always the case. Fifty percent expect to stay at a new job for at least five years. However, millennials pointed to frustration and loneliness as two primary reasons why they’ll start job hunting sooner. Therefore, fostering a welcoming environment where they feel supported by their coworkers as they learn the ropes is crucial.
Millennials, like everyone else, want to work for an organization that takes the time and effort to invest in them. Use a mentorship program, along with professional development opportunities, to remind them you’re investing in their future. Consider covering their dues to a professional organization such as the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) or the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).
Offer Feedback, Opportunities to Contribute
Millennials are known as the social media generation. Many are used to the instant gratification of “likes” and “shares” – so they’ll require more feedback to feel confident about their performance.
Consider implementing weekly meetings to discuss what they’re doing right and how they can improve. Real-time feedback on a day-to-day basis can also be beneficial. This can be as simple as a quick comment: “Good job picking Wednesday. We were able to increase efficiency by 10% on this latest run.”
It’s important to treat even your youngest employees as important contributors to the team. If you foster a problem-solving mindset from the beginning, your employees will develop the skills and critical thinking necessary to become leaders.
Leverage Their Passion for Efficiency
Many millennials view time as one of their most prized possessions. They’ve been trained to seek out shortcuts that get jobs done quicker – a good trait in an industry where greater efficiency is the endgame.
If you’ve waited to implement a more advanced warehouse management system (WMS), consider how millennials might play a role in helping your team adopt new technology. They can be invaluable as part of a thorough warehouse review. With the right training, they’ll uncover resource-wasting processes and offer options for streamlining operations. As digital natives most of them will require minimal training to understand your WMS.
The bottom line: As they become more comfortable with your operations, millennials can apply their skills to transform your warehouse and save your profits.
A Welcoming Environment Goes a Long Way
When you decide to recruit and retain millennials for your warehouse, these steps can help you forge a successful relationship. You might not be able to check off every box on a millennial’s career wish list – and that’s ok.
By creating a work environment that directly addresses their desires of professional development, feedback and a supportive company culture, you can attract and retain the young professionals who will power tomorrow’s supply chain.
Don White is CEO of Snapfulfil